It’s a Small, Colorful World After All: The Life of Disney Artist Mary Blair

Cindy: It seems we have a penchant here at Bookends for featuring books that celebrate color, especially when they mention fabulous names color namesPocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourvilee is one such delight (and one of those biographical nonfiction picture books with a subtitle longer than the actual title).

For a girl who collected colors as a child, becoming one of the first to work at Walt Disney Studios must have seemed like a dream. . . until she entered a black and white, male-dominated world where her colors were not welcome. Blair’s wild reveries of emerald skies and magenta horses didn’t fit with her coworkers’ aesthetic, so her love of colors sent her off to other jobs in advertisement and children’s books and television. Then Walt came calling again. He wanted her back for a special project requiring her vibrant colors. She agreed—as long as she could be in charge!

The special project? A ride for the 1964 World’s Fair: It’s a Small World. Whether you love the ride or hate it for its earworm theme song, you’ll love Mary’s story. Years ago, I took my daughters to Disney World for its 25th anniversary, and my oldest returned home excited more about animation than any ride and spent months painting plastic pages to create her own animation cells. How I wish she’d had this book back then.

Lynn: Colorful is the word! Brigette Barrager’s digitally rendered illustrations swirl and sizzle with every hue. Taking full advantage of the book’s large size, Barrager fills the pages with a surplus of colorful energy. One of my favorite illustrations shows Mary, trailing bright shades, arriving at a sepia-toned studio, where even the rainbow is grey and black.

As Mary’s career progresses, each flip of the page reveals more and more brilliant colors. Barrager’s careful attention to the fashions of the time adds another fun dimension to her scenes. The bright, eye-catching cover is sure to attract attention, and an author’s note gives readers additional biographical information. (Oh yes, thanks for the earworm, Cindy!)

Cindy: You’re welcome, Lynn! If you watch this video, you’ll also see that Barrager incorporated many of the ride’s design flourishes into the end papers and the art throughout the book.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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